Jerry Tarkanian’s biggest mistake ever

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A few years ago, right around this time of year, I had the chance to interview former UNLV Runnin’ Rebels Coach Jerry Tarkanian, who died today at 84.

I was working on a Valentine’s Day story about couples in the spotlight, how local Vegas celebrities manage the ups and downs of a relationship in the public sphere. So photographer Leila Navidi and I showed up to talk with Tark and his wife Lois, a city councilwoman, at their Las Vegas home. While we waited for Lois to arrive, I sat in the kitchen with Tark, trying to make small talk while he grumbled about Lois the way old married couples do. He wasn’t really in the mood for an interview, but he mostly tolerated us anyway. And when we got around to the early days in his relationship with Lois he lit up a bit, and told this wonderfully endearing story:

“We didn’t have a big wedding because we didn’t have a lot of money. I was the assistant football coach at a Catholic high school and it was football season. We had a game on Friday night and we got married on Saturday. I took her to the Fresno State/Idaho football game [for our honeymoon], and she’s never forgiven me for that. That was the biggest mistake I ever made, but in reality there was nowhere to go.”

Click here to read Tark’s obituary on the Las Vegas Sun, and click here for the rest of our 2011 story on “Love in the limelight.”

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